The purpose of the Essay is to develop your own interpretation of the scholarly readings assigned in Weeks 1-5 of this class. Are Americans more interested in national history, national mythology, or personal experience? Where do they encounter, or seek out, public history? Which types of public history projects are best suited to these different varieties of stories? How do public historians attempt to manage public expectations of certain stories, topics, or sites?

Learning Objectives for the Essay Assignment

  • To engage with the study of public understandings of the past
  • To develop an argument based on interpretations of scholarly readings
  • To effectively structure and organize a piece of formal academic writing
  • To cite sources in an accepted academic style
  • To revise and edit to ensure clear and polished writing
  • To provide feedback for other writers


  • 750 words / 3 pages
  • 12 pt font, double-spaced, 1-inch margins (Times New Roman/Cambria/Garamond)
  • Citations in Chicago style


  • Week 6 – First Draft due in class and uploaded to Dropbox, Tuesday Oct. 2
  • Week 6 – Peer Review letter due in class and uploaded to Dropbox, Thursday, Oct. 4
  • Week 7 – Final draft due in class and uploaded to Dropbox, Thursday, Oct. 11


The essay will be evaluated according to the distributed rubric. Peer Review will count for 10% of your Essay grade. The final draft of the Essay counts for 20% of the course grade.


Rubric for Essay

In an “A” paper, the student:

  • Provides a well-worded and innovative thesis supported by a variety of evidence from the materials under analysis. The thesis should be specific and make an original argument.
  • Offers a strong introduction that avoids wide-reaching historical generalizations and provides a compelling conclusion. The conclusion will usually sum up the main objectives of the argument.
  • Analyzes materials while being attentive to historical context, the genre of the artifacts under analysis, and the content of the work.
  • Makes good use of paraphrases, summaries, details, and examples from the readings and/or material objects being discussed and offers a range of insights, rather than simply repeating a single argument.
  • Organizes the essay in a logical but creative manner and leads readers through a series of sub-arguments supporting the main thesis. Provides articulate transitions between paragraphs and arguments that offer insight into the links between ideas.
  • Exhibits very few, if any, grammatical errors and employs diverse sentence structure. Properly cites sources and intelligently uses quotes or citations from course texts without allowing those citations to overpower the words of the writer.
  • Writes a readable and coherent essay, which goes above and beyond the immediate expectations of the given assignment to offer original insights into the given prompt.


  • Offers a strong thesis that may be awkwardly worded or relies on some generalizations. Provides paraphrases, summaries, details, and examples from the readings as evidence for their claims throughout the paper.
  • Has a solid argument about the materials being discussed but lacks originality or creativity in its main thesis and may be repetitive in its subordinate or supporting claims.
  • Includes generalizations or questionable assumptions in a few instances but shows an overall knowledge of historical context and attempts to make links between the materials under discussion and the social realities from which they emerge.
  • Exhibits more than a few grammatical errors, occasionally cites incorrect historical information (i.e. dates and details of events), and/or employs a repetitive sentence structure. Properly cites sources but may fail to appropriately weave quotations into the body of the paper or may allow quotes to overpower the writer’s own words.
  • Uses transition sentences but tends towards awkward movement from one idea to the next. May struggle to offer a highly organized paper structure but maintains a coherent flow from the introduction to the conclusion.
  • Accomplishes the main objectives of the assignment without offering a diverse range of original insights into the given prompt.


  • Presents a very basic thesis that may restate the original research question rather than providing an original argument. Relies on wide-reaching generalizations about culture and society instead of using pointed examples from paraphrased or summarized readings to support most claims made in the paper.
  • Contains weak and overly-generalized introductory and concluding paragraphs and is highly repetitive. May offer a handful of interesting but disconnected insights that do not coherently support a main argument.
  • Contains grammatical errors, fails to follow formal guidelines, and lacks organizational flow. May have one or two well crafted paragraphs that do not fit into the larger organization of the paper as a whole.
  • Fails to consistently cite sources in a proper manner and uses quotes or paraphrases incorrectly or out of context as support for an argument.
  • Avoids the use of historical context and makes claims about the text which cannot be proven.
  • Accomplishes the bare minimum required of a passing grade without attempting to exceed the expectations of the original assignment.


  • Lacks a coherent thesis and uses broad generalizations about culture and society to replace an argumentative introductory paragraph. Often fails to offer any concluding paragraph.
  • Lacks solid claims about the materials under discussion and uses few paraphrases, summaries, details, or examples from assigned reading.
  • Contains a variety of grammatical mistakes, consistently confuses historical facts, genres, and narrative details, and fails to provide any organizational structure to the paper.
  • May makes one or two insightful remarks largely disconnected from the main paper. Verges on being incoherent and may fail to exhibit many of the features of an academic paper (i.e. begins to use first-person or personal accounts rather than using historical evidence).
  • Fails to properly cite sources, uses citations out of context, and may avoid referring to course texts at all.
  • Avoids answering all parts of a given prompt or simply makes patently wrong assertions about the materials at hand.


  • Completely fails to respond to the given prompt or does not provide any of the elements of a coherent paper.

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